MEPs alarmed by ‘politically motivated persecution’ in Ukraine

Supporters of the former president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko hold posters and flags prior a court hearing on Poroshenko?s preventive punishment at the Pechersk District Court in Kiev, Ukraine, 01 July 2020. The former president of Ukraine, now MP Petro Poroshenko arrived at the Pechersk District Court for choosing restraint for him on suspicion in the case involving the allegedly illegal appointment of former deputy head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Serhiy Semochko in July 2018. [EPA-EFE/STEPAN FRANKO]

“We are alarmed by continuous attempts to misuse the Ukrainian justice system for politically motivated persecution of political opponents,” said lawmakers from the informal Friends of European Ukraine group in a statement on Friday (3 July).

After the peaceful power transition of 2019 election in the post-Soviet country, “current attempts to prosecute political opponents pose a risk of democratic backsliding,” the group of MEPs added.

Ukraine’s former president, Petro Poroshenko, is suspected of abuse of office by illegally pressuring the then-chief of Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Yehor Bozhok, into appointing Serhiy Semоchko as his deputy.

Poroshenko is involved in 24 investigations, with three others recently closed, and denies any wrongdoing, calling the probes selective justice ‘at the orders of [Volodymyr] Zelensky’, the current president.

“We acknowledge Ukraine‘s ambitions for deeper integration with the EU on political, economic, people-to-people and security levels provided that reform results and progress in respect for the rule of law, the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and in strengthening democracy is attained,” the parliamentarians said.

The 50-member group, which does not have formal standing, was created in September last year with the goal of providing political support and to promote Ukraine’s economic integration with the EU.

European lawmakers voiced their concern over the legal proceedings against the ex-president in June.

“The case of former President Poroshenko will be closely followed in this house and we trust Ukraine’s current administration will hold itself to highest standards of the rule of law and justice,” leading MEPs on Ukraine then said in a letter.

On Wednesday (1 July), the Pechersk district court in Kyiv postponed to 8 July the decision on whether to accept the prosecution’s request to oblige Poroshenko to appear when summoned for questioning, to hand over his passport and not to leave Kyiv without the permission of the investigators.

Poroshenko called in for questioning ahead of court date

Ukraine’s former president, Petro Poroshenko, will be questioned by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) on Tuesday (30 June) ahead of his court hearing the next day.

Prior to his appearance in court, the fifth president of Ukraine was questioned by the State Bureau of Investigation, from which a rally of several thousand supporters accompanied him to the hearing.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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